Standing tree at South Gate of Shang Yang

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Among the seven heroes of the Warring States period, the Qin state was backward in politics, economy and culture. The neighboring state of Wei was stronger than the state of Qin, and it also took a large area of Hexi from the state of Qin. In 361 BC, Qin Xiaogong, the new monarch of the state of Qin, ascended the throne. He made up his mind to work hard, first of all, to collect talents. He gave an order and said, “Whoever can find a way to make the state of Qin rich and strong, whether he is a Qin person or a guest from outside, will be made an official.” Qin Xiaogong’s call really attracted many talented people. There was an aristocrat gongsunyang (later Shang Yang) of the state of Wei, who could not be put in high position in the state of Wei. He went to the state of Qin and asked someone to introduce him. He was received by Duke Xiaogong of Qin.



Shang Yang said to Qin Xiaogong, “if a country wants to be prosperous and strong, it must pay attention to agriculture and reward its officers and men; if it wants to cure the country, it must be rewarded and punished. With rewards and punishments, the imperial court has prestige, and all reforms will be easy.” Qin Xiaogong fully agreed with Shang Yang. However, some nobles and ministers of the state of Qin strongly opposed it. Qin Xiaogong saw that there were so many opponents. He had just ascended the throne and was afraid of making trouble, so he put the reform on hold for the time being. After two years, when Qin Xiaogong was firmly seated, he worshipped Shang Yang as Zuo Shuchang (the official name of the state of Qin) and said, “from today on, the reform of the system will be decided by Zuo Shuchang.” Shang Yang drafted a reform decree, but he was afraid that the people would not trust him and would not follow the new decree. He first asked people to erect a piece of wood three feet high at the South Gate of the capital, and gave an order: “Whoever can carry this piece of wood to the north gate will be rewarded with ten liang of gold.” After a while, a large crowd gathered around the south gate, and everyone talked about it. Some said, “anyone can carry this piece of wood. Where can I use a ten Liang reward?” Some said, “this is probably a joke made by Zuo Shu.” Look at me, everyone. I look at you. No one dares to go up and carry wood. Knowing that the people did not believe his orders, Shang Yang raised the reward to fifty Liang. Unexpectedly, the higher the reward, the more unreasonable the spectators felt, and no one dared to carry it. While everyone was talking, one of the people ran out and said, “let me try.” As he said, he really picked up the wood and left, moving all the way to the north gate. Shang Yang immediately sent someone to give the bearer fifty liang of yellow gold, not a penny less. This matter immediately spread to the public and caused a sensation in the state of Qin. The common people said, “Zuo Shuchang’s order is unambiguous.” Knowing that his orders had worked, Shang Yang announced the new decree he had drafted. The new law makes clear rewards and punishments, and stipulates that the size of official positions and the level of titles are based on the standard of meritorious service in war. Nobility without military merit has no title; Those who produce more grain and cloth shall be exempted from official duties; Anyone who is poor for business or laziness, together with his wife and children, will be punished as a servant of the government. Since the Shang Yang reform in the state of Qin, the agricultural production has increased and the military strength has become stronger. Before long, the state of Qin attacked the western part of the state of Wei, from Hexi to Hedong, and defeated the capital of the state of Wei, Anyi. In 350 B.C., Shang Yang carried out the second reform. The main contents of the reform were as follows: first, abandoned well fields and open paddies (paddies are the main roads in the fields). The state of Qin leveled the wide paddies and planted crops. It also reclaimed the mounds, wastelands, forests and ditches used to divide the border. Whoever reclaims wasteland belongs to him. Land can be bought and sold. 2. Establish county organizations, merge towns and villages, and organize them into counties, which shall be directly managed by officials appointed by the state. In this way, the power of the central government is more centralized. III. move the capital to Xianyang. In order to facilitate the eastward development, the national capital was moved from the original Yongcheng (now Fengxiang County, Shaanxi Province) to Xianyang (now the northeast of Xianyang City, Shaanxi Province) in the north of the Weihe River. Such a large-scale reform, of course, will cause fierce struggle. Many nobles and ministers opposed the new law. Once, the crown prince of the state of Qin broke the law. Shang Yang said to Qin Xiaogong, “the laws and regulations of the state must be observed by all levels. If the people above cannot abide by them, the people below will not trust the imperial court. If the crown prince breaks the law, his master should be punished.” As a result, Shang Yang punished the prince’s two masters, Prince Xu and Gongsun Jia. One cut off his nose and the other tattooed on his face. As a result, some nobles and ministers dared not break the new law. After ten years, the state of Qin became richer and stronger. The emperor of Zhou sent envoys to sacrifice meat to Qin Xiaogong and named him “Fang Bo” (the leader of one of the princes). The princes of the Central Plains also congratulated the state of Qin. The state of Wei had to cede the land in Hexi and move its capital to Daliang (now Kaifeng, Henan).

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